Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America Hardcover – October 13, 2009
|New from||Used from|
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
A sharp-witted knockdown of Americaâs love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realism
Americans are a âpositiveâ peopleâcheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity.
In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal nineteenth-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude. Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to âprosperâ you. The medical profession prescribes positive thinking for its presumed health benefits. Academia has made room for new departments of âpositive psychologyâ and the âscience of happiness.â Nowhere, though, has bright-siding taken firmer root than within the business community, where, as Ehrenreich shows, the refusal even to consider negative outcomesâlike mortgage defaultsâcontributed directly to the current economic crisis.
With the mythbusting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of Americaâs penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out ânegativeâ thoughts. On a national level, itâs brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative bestâpoking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science, and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Thanks to Ms. Ehrenreich for her refreshingly honest book. We need many more to fix our country and our lives.
Barbara Ehrenreich, is certainly no friend of soulless capitalism. After a personal confrontation with the breast cancer feel-good industry, during which she was encouraged to accept this often-times mortal, painful and disfiguring affliction as a "gift" (one which she accepted with her usual high dudgeon), she prudently decided to investigate the validity of the panacea claims on behalf of this thought package. Claims by advocates of positive thinking include remission of various diseases otherwise recalcitrant to known medical intervention (see Norman Cousins for a good example of that phenomenon) and the ability to attract inanimate objects (e.g. money, McMansions, etc.) to the true believer. Does it work, as advocates contend or is it magical thinking?
Given Ehrenreich's scientific background (undergraduate physics degree, PhD in molecular biology), she is well-equipped to evaluate the design, methods, results and conclusions in the published the manuscripts on which the science of "positive psychology" was founded. The results of her review? Ain't nothin' there, despite the scientific veneer! This is hardly a surprising result given the anti-empirical nature of the claims made on behalf of this approach. It takes a concerted act of faith to overlook the inconsistencies of some of the more egregious (but often espoused) tenants of the "discipline". A frequently cited example: Want something you can't afford? No problem! Just buy it and "God will provide"!
Is this reality-denying self-delusion exclusively the purvue of the stupid, befuddled or hopelessly delusional members of our society? While one might suspect a cynical and transparently fraudulent program to only be capable of separating a fool from his money, the problem, as Ehrenreich convincingly demonstrates, is the pervasiveness of this form of delusional thinking throughout all social stratas of contemporary America. Take, for example, Jack Welch the oft-lionized former CEO of General Electric Corp. He, amongst others, chose this intuitive approach to guide corporate decision making. Apparently, but far less surprisingly, he became much more pragmatic when it came to the bottom line, viz., his own salary and retirement compensation package (in the millions of dollars/year, use of a company airplane, free apartment, etc.) He also became strikingly more empirical when it came to pleasing shareholders. At GE under Welch, profits were maximized by ruthlessly decimating the ranks of lower-order lifeforms (aka employees). The positive thinking platitudes dispensed on behalf of Welch and his fellow captains of industry to the newly unemployed lumpen proletarian on his way out-the-door attempted to convince the dismayed worker that loss of income and insurance was yet another "blessing". Similar systems of positive thought control served to discipline the remaining, frightened workers. Amazingly...it worked! But so does religion, so this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Least this be construed as a defect unique to rapacious capitalists, Ehrenreich remarks on the Stalin's incorporation of this method to exercise totalitarian control.
The major deficiency of this book is the centrality Ehrenreich gives to the role of positive thinking in the current financial debacle. While self-delusion and "positive psychology" doubtlessly played a significant role, the primacy of cupidity, the secondary contribution of smug self-satisfaction and the tertiary element of misplaced faith in the arcane knowledge of highly educated technocrats also contributed on the industry side to the situation. She ignores the ideologically-tinged laissez-faire posture of the U.S. Government which encouraged and enabled the deadly trends. The dissenters, both in industry and government were ignored or fired as they did not share the relentlessly optimistic group-think.
All told, this is book represents refreshingly straightforward broadside against yet another manifestation of American anti-intellectualism. Unlike Osteen's books, however, it will not convert the masses. There is nothing to be gained from viewing the sorry reality of American life stripped of its prevalent myth and delusion. As the current catch phrase puts it, "We drank the Kool Aid". Ehrenreich might rephrase this as, "We accepted the Poisoned Teddy Bear with the Pink Ribbon".
Most recent customer reviews
I will give one simple example...Read more